MPLS – multi-protocol label switching – turns 17 this year and is still going strong.

Strong enough that network architect Orhan Ergun was able to churn out a five-part series on using it for traffic engineering for Network Computing. The last installment was just published.

MPLS, he notes, was created to improve packet performance in the core of networks, but it has been adopted for traffic engineering because it can send packets across a less congested path instead of the shortest path set by the routing protocol.

This happens when a short label is added to each packet with instructions sending them from router to router rather than allowing routers to forward them based on next-hop lookups.

Ergun points out in the series that MPLS traffic engineering can optimize bandwidth, support service level agreements or enable fast reroute.

If your network is pure IP and not MPLS-enabled bringing new control plane features into your network may be too complex, he acknowledges. “Troubleshooting, management, user training, control plane state, and data plane state can all be concerns. In addition, if your equipment doesn’t support Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Intermediate System to Intermediate System (IS-IS), and Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), you may need to change hardware or software.”

But there are alternatives for traffic engineering, including IP fast reroute, and Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol feasible successor.

As benefits the length of this series, network engineers will find a wealth of information.

Read the full article here